Sports Mole brought you live updates as Rafael Nadal won his first singles match since June in Chile. Find out how he made it happen here.
By Liam Apicella, Features Editor Filed: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 20:30 UK
Last Updated: Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 11:05 UK
Having not played a singles match since June of last year at Wimbledon, former world number one Rafael Nadal made his return from a knee injury at the VTR Open in Chile this evening.
His opponent was Argentina's Federico Delbonis, who looked keen on causing an upset when he claimed an early break of Nadal's serve.
The Spaniard rallied though and soon reclaimed that break, before going on to take the first set.
The next set proved even more straightforward as Nadal wrapped up the victory in just over an hour.
You can find out how the match unfolded with our game-by-game commentary below.
8.31pmGood evening tennis fans. Well, this has to be one of the most eagerly anticipated matches I can remember for a long time. OK, there have been a few Grand Slam finals over recent months, but this is Rafael Nadal! A lot of eyes will be on him this evening.
8.32pmIt's been 222 days since Nadal last competed in a competitive singles match. A lot has changed in the world of tennis since then. For a start, he has dropped from the world's number two, down to number five. Heck, Andy Murray is even a Grand Slam champion!
8.35pmSpeaking of Murray, he has warned Nadal fans not to expect too much, too soon. After all, he has been out for a long time with a knee injury.
"He might not have the same [aura] straight away and you would expect people in the first few months while he is not back to his highest level and think they could possibly upset him," said Muzza.
"But over time, and if Rafa wins his first three tournaments back that changes everything and people will be worrying about him again. People fearing you comes winning and confidence."
8.37pmOf course, Nadal actually returned to action last night in the doubles. He played alongside his good friend Juan Monaco and the pair eased to a win over Frantisek Cermak and Lukas Dlouhy. Got to confess, it was great to see Rafa back out there and enjoying himself.
8.39pmAnd here is what the 26-year-old had to say after that encounter:
"It was a great feeling to play again and I'm very happy for doing it with a friend like Monaco in a great atmosphere that we had on the court. In doubles the effort is always less [taxing].
"We will see how it goes in singles and how my physical condition is. I chose this tournament because it is the perfect time and surface."
8.44pmBy the way, we are hoping to see Rafa come onto the court any time between 9pm and 9.15pm. There is a match currently being played though so as you're probably only too aware, it could be a little longer than that. Let's hope not anyway!
8.48pmWhile we wait, let's relive some memorable Rafa moments shall we? Here are 25 of his best shots from 2012 before the knee injury got the better of him.
8.51pmOf course, Nadal will not be alone on the court tonight. Up the other end will be an Argentine, namely Federico Delbonis. For those of you who replied to that with 'who?' - Let's enlighten you...
8.54pmTaken from the ATP official website: "Plays with a two-handed backhand...Speaks Spanish and English...Nickname is "Delbo" or "Gordo"...Started playing tennis aged seven...Father, Horacio, is a hair products distributor; was once a goalkeeper for a professional football team; mother, Marta, is a social assistant; brother, Alfredo, and sister, Felicitas, are both students...Goal in tennis is "my dream is to be No. 1"...Favourite surfaces are clay and outdoor hard courts...Favourite shot is his forehand...Favourite tournament is Roland Garros...Idols growing up were Guillermo Vilas and Bjorn Borg...Hobbies include football, movies and going out with friends...Practises in Azul and Barcelona."
8.56pmOn the same site, his career highlight is down as reaching the semi-final in Stuttgart back in 2011. Despite winning the first set 6-3, his route the final was halted by Juan Carlos Ferrero, who responded with 6-4 6-4 triumphs. Enlightened? I hope so!
9.01pmRight, well as you've probably noticed, 9pm has been and gone and there is no Rafa. That's no major surprise because it's rare that matches run on schedule at these type of events. We're hoping that it won't be much longer before he emerges onto the red stuff.
9.05pmTo the tune of 'We Will Rock You', Nadal has entered the building! His knee is strapped, but he looks to be in decent shape. It also looks extremely warm in Chile, where it has just turned 6pm. Not long now until we are off and running!
9.07pmThe duo are now going through their warm-ups, rallying with each other. However, you wouldn't know that from the TV pictures, which are fixed to the strapping on Nadal's left knee. Let's hope they don't keep it like that throughout the match!
9.14pmHe we go then. The Nadal comeback is underway. He will open the serving...
Nadal 0-1* DelbonisBREAK! Well it seems as though Delbonis is determined to be a party pooper! He's broken Nadal at the first time of asking. As expected, the Spaniard looked a little rusty and struggled to find the baseline. Each time he failed, Delbonis was on hand to punish with a string of powerful forehands.
Nadal *0-2 DelbonisAnd he is not hanging about on his own service game either. The Argentine served out to love and even threw in an ace for good measure. Nadal, if truth be told, looks a little stunned. He's not used to this.
Nadal 1-2* DelbonisThat's more like it from Rafa. He battled back from 0-30 down to take the game. He's beginning to find his length and is forcing Delbonis deeper and deeper. There was also his first ace of the match in there as well.
Nadal *2-2 DelbonisBREAK! Well that was grueling. It was a game that went on for well over 10 minutes and saw Nadal spurn three break points before he eventually got the better of Delbonis. It was also a good test for Nadal's knee, having been made to slide in for a handful of drop shots. We're back on serve here in Chile.
Nadal 3-2* DelbonisThat break has now been followed up by a routine hold service game. Glimpses of the Nadal of old as well as he powered his way through that one. Delbonis needs to hold here or this set is in danger of slipping away from him.
Nadal *3-3 DelbonisGood stuff from Delbonis, who showed good character to hold there when Nadal appeared to be on the up. Let's not forget, this is not all about Nadal. There is prize money and ranking points riding on this for the Argentine. He has plenty to play for.
Nadal 4-3* DelbonisAnother easy hold for the man from the Balearic Islands. He's now making Delbonis work extremely hard just to stay in the rally. One point in particular was impressive as he sent Delbonis one way then the other, before smashing the ball well out of reach at the net.
Nadal *5-3 DelbonisBREAK! I've not seen a game of tennis like that in a long while. Shades of Djokovic vs. Murray at the US Open. Having got to deuce, both players had numerous chances to win through. As it was, Nadal claimed a vital break in just over 12 minutes! Whatever the outcome, this has been a great test for his knee. He will now serve for the set.
Nadal 6-3 0-0* DelbonisSET! To massive applause from the crowd Nadal takes the opening set courtesy of the cutest of drop shots at the net. That's not usually his game, but he showed a real deft touch there. Overall, it's been a positive start for Nadal, who has been made to work extremely hard at times.
10.06pmTo be fair to Delbonis, he was a match for Nadal for a lot of that set. It's just those key points that separate the very best from the rest. It's actually good to see that Nadal still has that sort of thing in his locker. Second set coming up, you'd have to fancy Nadal to win it from here...
Nadal 6-3 *1-0 DelbonisBREAK! It's another lengthy service game from Delbonis and once again Nadal comes out on top. The drop shot was back out in force during that game as well from the Spaniard. Nadal of old would have cruised to victory from here - let's see what a recovering Rafa can produce.
Nadal 6-3 2-0* DelbonisVamos Rafa! He is not hanging around now. Two aces in succession bring up a love game for the world number five. He is looking very bright at the moment. From Delbonis's point of view, he must hold this time around or the fat lady will soon be singing.
Nadal 6-3 *3-0 DelbonisBREAK! Nadal has won nine points on the bounce and to be fair to Delbonis, he is not playing badly. Nadal has simply rediscovered his rhythm. The way he is manipulating the ball from the baseline really is a joy to watch. The backhand is also looking razor sharp. All good signs for Rafa, who is now serving for a 4-0 lead.
Nadal 6-3 4-0* DelbonisThe Argentine put up much more of a fight there and even got himself up to 30 points. It wasn't enough though as the Nadal forehand came out to play and did the damage. Twice he found the line with a whipped shot to swing the game in his favour.
Nadal 6-3 *4-1 DelbonisIt's a hold for Delbonis and he deserves that. He's work so hard in this second set for very little reward. Having been taken to deuce, he produced a stunning shot down the line that wrong footed Nadal to give him game point, which he took with minimum fuss. It may just be delaying the inevitable, but that's not important. Delbonis's efforts have warranted that.
Nadal 6-3 5-1* DelbonisPretty emphatic from Nadal, with sheer power getting him through that one. He's now one game away from winning this match. The way it's going, you'd fancy him to do it with a break.
Nadal 6-3 *5-2 DelbonisBut Delbonis has other ideas. That's his best service performance of the match so far as he serves out to love, with one ace included. He's going to make Nadal serve for the match, which is all he can do. Whatever happens, Delbonis has not disgraced himself tonight.
10.43pmBoy does Nadal look a happy man. He celebrated that as if he had won a Grand Slam title - it means that much to him. After an understandable slow start, he began to find some top form and played some really good shots. Granted the opponent was not the strongest of players, but at this stage of his comeback, it is exactly what Nadal needed. It's good to have him back.
10.44pmThat's all we have time for from Chile. Thanks for joining us on Sports Mole and we hope that you enjoyed the coverage. Vamos Rafa!